Feb 21, 2018

[Politics] MacOS is for Women, Windows is for Men

Yesterday I was, almost literally, hit in the face with a cold.  I was feeling fine reading a book when, within about 30 seconds, I went from perfectly normal to spewing snot monster.  It was a pretty strange sensation and forced me to spend the day, not practicing, but instead blowing my nose.  Anyways, my foggy brain came up with this title and I'm running with it.

Yesterday I read this article about why it's so hard to work in shared offices.  My immediate thought after reading it was, "Duh! How can you concentrate when there are a million people around you making noise doing their things!"  Having spent most of my life in a padded room making noises with a permanent beeping sound in my ear(aka practicing), I understood how annoying distractions and extraneous noises are when you take an exam, or are concentrating really hard.

How is this relevant to the title?  Honestly, it was because of this section here:

“This place must have more Apple AirPods per capita than anywhere in the world,” he said one afternoon, warily looking around.
Okay, not much of a correlation, but my brain grabs on to snippets and it made me realize something.  Not only are shared offices one of the worst ideas ever, but only status-driven narcissistic Facebook-obsessed millennials would every use an Apple, and that the majority of those would be females.

As I began searching for the answer, I soon realized this is a much harder question to answer than I previously suspected.  Apple would never let someone know if a user is male or female, as they themselves probably do not know.  While I did see a statistic that said men spend more money on Apple online sales (think appstore), this did not equate to actual product sales.

I kept digging.

And found a more concrete answer (though I cannot verify statistics)

It seems that men out-buy women 2:1 on apple products.  This could be because men tend to have more disposable income or tend to prefer technology than women, but this is entirely conjecture.

A Forbes article has further statistics, that more educated and affluent people have iPhones.

However, I found this paper from Marshall College indicating that the "demographic profile of U.S. smartphone users who have used a QR code, February 2011,” the gender ratio is 51% male and 49% female"

I have to admit my preconceptions are a little blown out at the moment.  I guess that's what I get on relying on gross stereotypes.

So my thesis is entirely wrong and the parallelism I was going to make up about it is completely false.

-SomethingMusic

Feb 1, 2018

[Politics] Debunking the Debunkers: Trump's SotU Speech

Leftists are crying over President Trump.  Do they have a point?


Post State of the Union, the Democrats are rabidly attempting to debunk, undermine, and claw relevance back after Trump exposed them as little four-year olds throwing a tantrum.  As they rapidly lose relevancy as economic leaders, they are looking at ways to maintain their shrinking voter-base.

Approval of Trump post-SotU
As such, I have run into, as I'm sure many have, several videos making claims that Trump is an inhospitable liar.  However, the truth is more complicated than that, so I decide to take one of these videos and do my own research to reveal the truth.

This is the video in question I am looking at (I cannot directly link to Facebook videos so I will post the link here for personal viewing if you want): Bernie Sanders Group tries to debunk President Trump

Claim: Trump's first year of job creation is the worst since 2010

Truth: 40%

 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  2010 has seen the job growth of about 1,060,000 jobs.  Trumps number is approximately twice that at approximately ~2,055,000 in current estimates (December and November job totals are still estimates).  2011's job total are much closer to Trumps job growth at 2,091,000 new jobs created in the year.

Still not incredibly impressive, but about average.  So the question is why?

There were three major natural disasters that significantly hindered job growth: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria has caused significant and still unrepaired damage to large parts of Florida, Texas, and most of Puerto Rico.  The worst job growth of the year, September, at only 38,000 new jobs created, was also the most significant hurricane activity on record.

Another statistic that the video fails to look at is GDP growth during the year.  Despite the disasters in the south, the GDP of the country grew a solid 2.6% over the year.  Not the amazing 3% we were promised, but better than what has been predicted, as well as some of the fastest growth in over two years.

The reason why I give the video only 40% is because while it is technically correct, it overlooks many reasons as to way on top of missing important other statistics that indicate economic growth in the country.

This is also only looking at the past year, and not looking at current or future job growth (January had much higher than expected job growth)

Claim: Under Trump's presidency wages aren't rising, and in fact average wage has fallen accounting for inflation

Truth: 33%

After some searching on both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Social Security's National Average Wage Index, It's hard to come to any conclusive evidence to say whether this claim is definitively true of false.  Short of seeing their sources and math, I input the National Average Wage Index into the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator. The reason why I am skeptical is that Bernie's statement has been true for some time in almost any administration, regardless who has been in charge of the economy.

Pew Research indicates that the 'real average wage' of workers have barely budged in decades.  In this case, the problem is not President Trump's leadership, but an overall trend in how US finances are handled.

All of this data also has a huge problem: none of it is up to date from when Trump became president.  I don't know where they are getting their data, but unless they have hard numbers I'm missing I can't justify their claim.

That isn't the end of the story, however.  In the past few months, many businesses have been increasing their minimum wages, along with cash bonuses in many other companies.  Ont top of this, the Republican tax break is increasing the amount of take-home salary that people are getting from their jobs, meaning they keep more of their pay to spend on what they want.

The more I research this, the more I realize this debunk is pretty fallacious.

Claim: Only the rich benefit from stock market gains

Truth: 5%, complete crap

 The video doesn't even try to say President Trump is wrong because he's right.  Instead, they try and spin it saying only the rich benefit from market increases.  This is patently false in all situations.

Everyone benefits from increased stock market evaluations, as it is easier than ever to buy into the stock market.  The fantastic book A Random Walk Down Wall Street explains that, even with limited savings, smart investing can give you a dramatic increase in returns and long term benefits.

Even if you yourself don't directly invest in the stock market, chances are you have some sort of retirement fund, health fund, or college bank fund which can benefit from the bullish market.  It's not just trickle-down that will allow poorer people to benefit from bullish stock market. 

The primary complaint is that rich investors benefit more from a bullish market.  This is of course half true, as people with more accumulated wealth can invest more freely in the stock market and put more money in the stock market.  However, assume a simple hypothetical scenario:

You have $2000 to invest and you put it in an ETF
The rich guy has $2,000,000 to invest and puts in in the same ETF
The ETF goes up 10%
You make $200
The guy with more money makes $200,000
You both made 10%

It's easy to blame the rich person, but in reality you've made the same percentage (this is before factoring earnings tax, capital gains, and other associated fees that would affect the richer person more) as the richer person.

Another famous story is called 'bar stool economics'.  This story is about taxes more than about the market, but the moral is similar.

Claim: 83% of the tax cuts benefit the rich, and raises taxes on the middle class

Truth: 50%

The 'bar stool economics' story I put in the previous section is much more relevant here.  Chances are, the rich get the biggest money for it because, not big surprise, they pay the most taxes.  That being said, he is downright wrong in that the middle class will pay more taxes.

Market Watch has a great article about the 'winners and losers' of the Republicans latest bill.  The poorest group of people get minimal tax breaks.  However, this isn't because they are paying more taxes, but more because the poorest do not pay any taxes anyways.

There are also tax calculators here:
Market Watch
Tax Reform Calculator

The biggest question is if Republicans can make the tax cuts permanent.  Due to not getting enough votes to make the cuts permanent from stonewalling Democrats due to the Byrd Rule (a Democratic senator who was a former Grand Wizard of the KKK), the current break is set to expire which will result in higher taxes for the middle class.

Claim: only 2% of workers see receiving a raise from the tax bill, many companies have laid off workers

Truth: 40%

I could not find any articles showing that only 2% of workers have claimed to see a pay raise from employers due to the tax bill.  It could be because the tax bill hasn't been in effect yet, but it could also be because there is no information supporting this claim to begin with.

As for the firings, they are true but also incredibly overstated.  WalMart is firing 1000 people in their corporate  division, not their stores, while also increasing their minimum wage to $11.  AT&T has fired 600 workers in December while also increasing wages for their  other employees.  Harley Davidson has been hemorrhaging money for years, so it's no surprise they are firing workers off because the company is struggling. Tens of thousands of workers is a gross exaggeration.

That being said, there are many companies publicly announcing increasing pay bases and bonuses that have not also announced firings.  The Americans for Tax Reform has a list of companies who are giving bonuses and hiring more employees in light of tax breaks.

This also doesn't include the increased take home people will receive from reduced federal taxes (though states are trying to raise their taxes to take advantage of people's increased take home)

Claim: 100,000 American's lost their jobs due to outsourcing and unfair trade since Trump was elected

Truth: 65%, but...

Once again, I cannot find anything the proves this is accurate, but considering over the past 15 years we have lost 3.2 MILLION jobs to China I can assume it's probably true.  Outsourcing has become very popular over the years.  The video also does not say if the rate of lost jobs is more or less than the previous years, so I consider this accusation somewhat suspect.

The video also does not make any mention if this is due to Trump's policy as president or due to the current trend of the massive trade deficit we have with China already.  As we are only now seeing adjustments to the corporate tax structure as well as the beginnings of a trade war with China, I do not know if this will return jobs to America or stem the jobs leaving America.

US trade deficit with China

The big question will be if Trump's tax incentives, along with putting tariffs on China, will cause manufacturing and other jobs to start returning to the US.

Auto Manufacuring has lost 5,200 jobs in the US and 300,000 fewer cars bought in the US since Trump took office.

Truth: 75%

This one is fairly easy to verify.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that auto employment is up for the month, but down for the year.  While this makes Trump's claim a little dubious, overall manufacturing jobs are increasing dramatically under Trump. And many car manufacturers are planning on building, expanding, and opening new plants in the US:

Nissan
Toyota and Mazda

Car sales are down from averages, though truck sales are higher since Trump has taken office.



Claim: Trump has done nothing to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry.

Truth: 100%, but...

Just because he hasn't stood up to the industry doesn't mean he's not going to.  While we are all used to politicians who are all talk and not bite, Trump has given us clear goals he wants to pursue in the future.  He never made a campaign promise until this point to start looking into our drug industry.  We will all have to see what happens.

I personally do not expect him to tackle this problem until reelection, as he is focusing more on macro-economic moves such as trade deals like TPP and NAFTA, global politics and tensions, and seeing his initial projects he started this year through.  however, he's proven me wrong plenty of times already so I could be eating my words again.

Claim: Trump wants to sell out nations roads to rich people and wall street investors.  Only $200 billion would come from the Federal Government.

Truth: 100%, but...

I fail to see how this is a bad thing.  Here is the sheet from the white house about the proposed infrastructure project.  The interstate highways commonly used for vehicle travel between states is privately owned, and is well maintained.  The added toll sucks a bit, but it's hardly surprising.  I see this as an effective way for the rich that Bernie Sanders loves to complain about to invest in our country in a way that allows them to actively participate in maintain and expanding our roadways or other infrastructure projects.

The video also fails to say why it's a bad thing beyond "rich people are evil".  They then add hypothetical "outrageous tolls" or "sky-high fees" as fear-mongering.  It's not like there are plenty of bridges and other projects that people pay prices to travel.

Claim: One Third of Puerto Rico still doesn't have Electricity.  FEMA is transitioning out of construction and delivering emergency supplies.

Truth: 80% when this video was probably made, 0% now

The entire statement Trump said was "To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else — we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together."

Out of all of this, they focused on Puerto Rico because it is still pretty bad.

NPR has posted that FEMA has reversed their decision to and will continue to lend aid to Puerto Rico beyond 31st, and will continue aid as necessary.  Both Republican and Democratic senators voiced displeasure at the original plan to pull out on the 31st, and as such FEMA aid has been extended.

Clean Coal is a lie

Truth: 80% now, could fall over time

I have to admit this one made me giggle when I originally saw the SotU speech.  Clean coal is currently a quarter truth with current technology, though it is getting better over time.  As with everything, technology changes over time.  there are many projects attempting to fine ways to reduces coal's carbon emissions when burnt, so if any of these technologies make a break through it could make coal a better energy source.  People are eternally too scared of nuclear power, so coal is the cheapest option for many developing nations.

I think Trump threw that in to annoy all the environmentalists.  It also makes VA coal workers happy.  It was a shout out to his base and a poke at Democrats.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I hope this shows how much more complicated the truth is, and how Facebook videos like the one Bernie Sanders put out are dangerous tools for misinformation.  It is good people are skeptical, but when they are egregiously biased, they need to be fact checked and analyzed.

This took way too much time.

-SomethingMusic

Sep 20, 2015

[Music] 9 Symphonies Challenge

There is a musical challenge going on Reddit right now: For symphonies #1 through 9, choose a symphony for each number.  Only one symphony per composer is allowed.  It seemed fun so I thought I'd do my own list!

Symphony No 1: Shostakovitch Symphony No. 1

Shostakovich's first symphony is one of the best first symphonies ever written.  While not truly representative of Shostakovich's style as it was his graduation piece from Maximilian Steinberg's composition class.  There is some obvious Stravinsky influence in the work as well due to his (at the time) recent exposure to the composer.



Runners up: Mahler 1, Boulez Symphony Fantastique

Symphony No 2: Rachmaninoff

Rach 2 is just an amazing symphony.  Reminiscent of his 2nd piano concerto, it is a beautiful work with a lovely clarinet solo in the 3rd movement.  Not too much to add, I'm sure there's a nice backstory but I'm not gonna look for it right now.



Symphony No. 3: William Schuman

Why this instead of Brahms 3, one of the most beautiful pieces ever written?  It's because I really like this piece and it doesn't get enough exposure!! It's a really unique and has a pretty epic bass clarinet solo.  The only real recording of it is with Bernstein, though I believe Seattle has a pretty good recording of it as well.



Runner-ups: Brahms 3, Saint-Saens 'Organ' Symphony

Symphony No. 4: Tchaikovsky

Tchaik 4 over Brahms 4 is an easy choice.  This piece is pretty awesome and exemplified the anti-nationalist themes Russian composers hid in their music.



Runners up: Brahms 4

Symphony No. 5: Prokofiev

The fifth symphony has the toughest contention.  However, I chose what I liked most rather than what has the most impact or most historical value.  Therefore, I picked Prokofiev simply because I love this symphony.  It's so comical but also so sad.  Each movement represents a certain facet of Russian life, but also Prokofiev's own reflection of Russain society.  It is both endearing and sarcastic at the same time.



Runners up: Mahler 5, Nielsen 5, Shostakovitch 5, Beethoven 5

Symphony No 6: Beethoven

I think 6 is better than 5! And on that subject we have Beethoven's 6th symphony!  Also known as "pastoral" symphony it is a great demonstration of setting scene and ideas in music.



Runners up: Tchaik 6 (Pathetique)

Symphony No 7: Dvorak (aka 2nd symphony)

The 7th symphony is my favorite of Dvorak. The slow movement sounds like Puff the Magic Dragon...



Symphony No 8: Schubert (Unfinishied)

Just a great piece of music... sorry just want to get this done.



Symphony No 9: Mahler



Sorry kinda a low-quality post... but they're great pieces trust me!

Jun 22, 2015

10 Reasons Why Classical Music is Failing Today

I would like to apologize about the click-bait title posts, but they appeal to people for some reason so I may as well use them.  Lately lots of bloggers, writers, critics, etc. have been frequently saying how classical music is doomed to obscurity, being too quiet, too dated, and too boring.  That being said, I believe many critics are missing the change of pop consumer culture, as well as misunderstanding what is happening to classical music in general.  Without further introduction let's take a look into the current situation that classical music is in.


10.  No cohesion between various musical groups

One of the problems classical music organizations have is the lack of cohesion and  awareness of the different musical groups in their area.  While many musicians (especially at local levels) will play in several groups, orchestra or otherwise, it seems like many musical groups tend to not know what other groups are performing in their area, or simply won't see other groups perform in their area.

Orchestras should not only self-promote but help bring attention to other groups in their area and vice versa: smaller ensembles should promote each other and help advertise larger and more prominent groups as well.  If the community becomes more united the self promotion will give listeners more options and more knowledge of what's happening in their own backyard.


9.  The hiring processes hires 'safe' musicians who don't contribute to the local community, and values ability over artistry and leadership.

I have to admit this is partially a personal complaint as well as an important one.  When an orchestra hires a musician, they look for several things: how a musician fits into the sound of an orchestra, how skilled and consistent is the player, how musical is the player, and so on.  However, I believe orchestras need to look at another important quality when hiring a musician, one that cannot be determined from a blind audition: how will that player contribute and promote the orchestra or classical music in the local community?

It is so easy as a musician to focus only on the music community that we developed in.  Focusing on conservatories or the wealthy elite has allowed classical music to survive, but to flourish, musicians really need to get out into the public and work on inviting and informing people of events and music in their area.  The reason why this is so hard to do is because it is met with heavy resistance.  People don't like it when they are asked to listen carefully and analyze their music the way we as classical musicians break down our art form.

There is some positive light in the matter though as many smaller groups are rooted in their community.  New World Symphony has an international and local presence for building up their community.  Other ensembles like Fifth House in Chicago and the Civic Orchestra also play in local and unexpected places to promote their concerts but also to establish a relationship in their community.  These groups are few and far between, however, and most music groups seem to think that their existence deserves people to come listen to their concerts.  This attention must be earned from a massive market of superstars and pop artists.

I want to commend Cleveland Orchestra for being the best orchestra at establishing a relationship with their local city.  They promote their sports teams and are willing to joke about themselves in a way that allows them to feel approachable rather than an ineffable paragon of musical idealism.

8.  Classical music is disconnected from how people relate to music today.

A major problem with classical music today is its disconnect from what people listen for in music.  For example, I remember going to see a Broadway show recently.  After the show, a large group of people crowded the exit of the stage to be able to see/interact with the stage performers.   From this I realized the average person has no real empathy and attachment to the actual music, but the person themselves.  People listen to an artists music not because the music is unique or insightful (if pop music shows us anything it's that neither of these have to be true for a piece of music to be successful) but because they relate in some way to the person themselves.  You can tell this by how the fans react to news.  Pop artists get a free pass from crimes due to their popularity; the person is more important in the music.  If something like this happens to a classical musician, the musician or director is held accountable and removed from the orchestra, or at least appropriately punished.

This habit of classical music organizations reveals another problem with classical music: the community looks inward and becomes introverted.  The reason why orchestras and opera houses end up playing the same 50 or so works of music is because these organizations are catering to the same people who have been attending orchestras the past 25 or 30 years.  This is a huge problem; there are lots of great piece of art music being composed with the same level of artistry and creativity that was being produced over a century ago and yet very very few of those works are being given exposure at the large stage.  Luckily, these works are being performed at a less exposed level as many younger musicians are tired of the stagnant development of national and international orchestras.  I mean the current biggest 'craze' is Barbara Hannigan's performance of Gyorgy Ligeti's Mysteries of the Macabre, a piece written over a century ago. There is so much new music being composed, some of it cinematic in nature, but much of it personal and powerful.


I mean listen at the work of Wuorinen.  It is intellectually stimulating, but essentially grating to listeners.  Even as contemporary musicians who understand modern compositions, there comes a point where you can not defend atonal compositions.  It is one thing to use serialism for expressive purposes  and used well to make a statement, but sometimes the math and intellectual idea is what is more powerful than the actual musical product.  Many ensembles and orchestras who play contemporary works end up being forced to defend bad pieces.  This, in part, enforces the repetition of dated and overplayed works of older composers.

It is important for orchestras to find a balance between the good ol' top 50 and modern works.  Orchestras could become a hub for new compositions and for composers to come up with new exciting music for people to enjoy and stretch their imaginations.  If orchestras keep living in the past they will end up being in the past.

7. Failure to adapt and embrace changing and new technology

Orchestral music has not changed its performance style since about the 1830s with Berlioz' Symphony Fantastique and the rise of musical academies.  Modern, technology, however, has been constantly changing how we view and consume video, interact with other people, and listen to music.  While orchestral music has embraced technology to perform new music works, classical music hasn't really stayed up to date with musical consumption habits.

Actually on second thought I take it back.  Music is pretty good at adapting to new technology.  Many musicians and conservatories stream concerts, Twitch's 'music' channel is pretty underutilized but is available for people to stream personally.  There is a recent article in which Juiliard has made an app which streams the process of making and being great artists, be it a pianist, singer, actor, or dancer.

                                     This honestly has nothing to do with what I'm writing about.  Just wanted to put some nice music here.

Even with these developments, most orchestras are pretty slow on the technological uptake.  There is little interaction between the audience, and the musicians in orchestras are generally silent outside of their circle of influence in the academic field and/or other musicians.  While larger orchestras such as Berlin have their digital concert hall and the MET has their 'MET at the movies' experience, beyond the major productions most symphonies have little or no online presence beyond a website and a poorly updated Youtube channel.

I would like to see orchestras try to incorporate and be on the cutting edge with the VR and other technology to really revolutionize the orchestral experience.  Imagine as a viewer to be able to 'walk' around an orchestra and hear what an orchestral musician hears when they play.  When I sit in an orchestra I hear something completely different than in a recording or as an observer in the hall, and I would love to see orchestras have a more entrepreneurial approach to adapting and utilizing new technologies for music.

6. Lack of marketing/significant outreach

I've gone a little bit into this in other categories on this list but I want to discuss this in more specific detail here.  Think about the level of promotion pop music artists get when they release a new album.  Posters, ads, access cable ads, twitter, Facebook, the industry floods promotion everywhere.  While orchestras don't need to sell out, beyond the Californian orchestras (LA phil ,SF, etc.) most orchestras don't really self promote beyond their Facebook page.  Part of this is due to a limited marketing budged: most orchestras are scraping by the skin of their teeth and most of their sales come from donations and not ticket sales.

Putting some money together for ads, local cable or otherwise, would be a significant help promoting an orchestra.  If you walked around a city that isn't NYC, Chicago, or Philadelphia, and maybe Cleveland, and ask them where and when their local orchestra is and where they play they probably couldn't tell you.  Orchestra's might advertise on Facebook and Youtube videos do reach an international audience, but even then they will only reach audiences who are looking.  Orchestra's need to find ways to draw in an audience who isn't going to be looking for what their orchestra is playing, but people looking for something to do that weekend and give them an experience which doesn't make them feel separated from the orchestra as they play.

Now I'm not a marketing guru with years of experience to know how to promote but I know that orchestras could be doing a lot more than what they're doing now.  There are so many great performances and performers that people simply are unaware, and I know I'm always frustrated when I miss out on some great pieces being played simply because they're not well promoted.

That being said, I understand the difficulty.  When I perform a concert promotion is one of the last things I'm thinking about.  It's a very tough for single performers self promote your own concerts.  For my undergrad and master's recitals I literally did no promotion.  This was in part of my lack of self-confidence of my playing but it was also due to just not knowing what to do.  I know some schools are now helping their students learn how to promote their performances (Mannes specifically) and I think overall it's a positive development in stagnant music education.

5. Classical music recordings and streams do not properly represent the genre.

There was an excellent recent NPR article detailing many aspects of classical music streaming and geo-tagging that goes into a lot of problems about finding/listening to classical music through streaming services such as Spotify or Pandora. However, it primarily focuses on how impossible it is to find top recordings of classical music, as well as the complicated business of finding a recording.

The article does not go into the other problem with classical music: recordings simply do not sound remotely the same as a live concert despite the care taken to make good recordings.  Even with lossless audio files like FLAC, the recording will only be as good as the positioning and equipment.  While this equipment can get very good, it still isn't the same, as the music gets compressed, mixed, etc.  it still lacks the depth of the live performance.  Also due the loudness war so much music gets affected by it.  Either classical recordings get hit by it and there no longer becomes any dynamic contrast, or the opposite happens and the dynamics are so contrasting that the quiet parts/movements of a piece get lost and the whole effect of the piece is ruined and hard to hear.

Even with new and 'better' formats being developed classical music needs to find a good way of making great recordings.  While there are some fantastic and ground-breaking recordings, (Boulez with Cleveland comes to mind as well as some Chicago and Philadelphia recordings) it still pales to a live performance.  Classical music is designed around the concert hall and live performance, and as such recordings need to reflect the setting.

4. Classical Music has a bad or negative image in pop culture

Classical music has a poor image in mainstream culture.  Whenever it appears in movies, it is always associated with the financially and intellectual elite, the elderly, the foppish, or the pretentious.  It has been used as a punishment in public schools, and has been used as calming emotional manipulation in train stations,  For some reason this art style which was once near universal has been practically weaponized as punishment.  It is sad, especially considering that classical music has such great story and emotional depth to the music, something that is ignored in it's common consumption as a study aid or a relaxer.  How can you find Shostakovich or Berg relaxing?


Leider by Berg, performed by Renee Fleming

Classical music itself is not pretentious, but sometimes the people who listen to it are.  Musicians demand such high levels of perfection and musicality in their playing that it can make new listeners of classical intimidated, the amount of study and knowledge many people have about the genre is incredible.  Due to this, many people get angry and frustrated when they don't understand and recognize basic musical forms, the multiple melodies and counter-melodies, and constantly shifting tonalities that appear in classical music works.  This makes the formality of the performances themselves become a daunting experiences to many people.

3.  Modern music consuming habits do not follow modern art/classical music's demands

A general and overlooked problem is that classical music doesn't conform to how people generally listen to music. Instead of being the focus, music tends to be used as a multitasking background soundtrack.  Classical music, especially compositions written the past 100 years or so requires the piece to be the focus, be it Stravisnky, Shostakovich, or Boulez, Cage, etc.  To fully understand these pieces a listener can't focus on other inputs, but due to our hyper-visual society we tend to focus on what we see and not what we hear.  This is why movie soundtracks and pop pieces have prominent melodies with a steady consistent beat, not only for dancing but for ease of consumption.

The loudness war (which was mentioned in an above section) is a reflection of this.  Most headphones are pretty poor quality, so if all parts of the piece are the same volume you can hear it at the cost of musicality. Compare this to the sensitivity of an orchestral piece, where even in a quiet room with headphones it can be difficult to make out all the details.

The culture of classical music is just completely different from popular genres. For example, most music written in a contemporary style focuses on musical intellectualism instead of musical empathy.  Meanwhile, pop music is less about the music and more about the image.  The music is so similar that people invent ridiculous classifications in an attempt to separate 'their' music from the 'mainstream' genres. You don't see Baroque being broken down to 'post-grunge apocalyptic baroque' (though that would be kinda cool).  If the image and popularity of the pop-artist or the group was removed and just the music remained, could anyone say that the music is still good and popular?

2.  Very few people realize the range and scope of music classical styles have to offer.

When people think of classical music they tend to think of Mozart or Beethoven,  I mean just type in 'classical music' into Youtube and look at the first few videos that show up.  It isn't Xenakis or Stockhausen that's for sure.  Everyone extrapolates on this and says all classical music are this style of music.  And they're partly right since classical music has the primary definition of music written between 1775 and 1825 (you can quibble dates if you want, I'm just going with Google here). I mean where would Messiaen fit in? Ravel? Rimsky-Korskov? There's no good way to define and categorize 600 + years of written music that is still growing and developing today.  Art music is another classification but ignores that so much of classical music wasn't written to be esoteric and intellectual.


the first link when you search 'classical music' on Youtube. Don't read the comments


When people say 'they don't like classical' I have to not believe them because there is encompasses so many different styles and philosophies that they can't possibly say they dislike all of classical, but they hear a couple compositions and assume that they have heard everything it has to offer without only scratching the surface.

That being said, music appreciation does go both ways.  It's so easy to focus on one category when completely ignoring what is going on now.  As musicians we should listen to more popular styles (be it metal, pop, hip hop, whatever) so we can better understand what is the popular music aesthetic.

1.  Lack of Education

In the end, this all comes down to one thing: lack of education.  People don't know how much music there is and cannot fathom how many different subcultures and genres there are.  Without classical musicians leading the way for promotion and education, there won't be many orchestras left because people don't know they exist!  Once again look at Youtube, and see how many channels there are promoting video games, science, or other current pop culture trends.  Then look at who is promoting classical music.  There is a horrible lack of education in the arts which allows corporations to swoop in and take control of what people see every day.  We as musicians need to show people how amazing classical music is and the amount of diversity and depth the music has to show.

Hopefully this has been somewhat insightful look into the difficulties classical music has to face.  I wasn't expecting it to be this long but it ended up taking quite a while to write.

May 5, 2015

Touch Pianist is Amazing and Here's Why



Touch Pianist is a phone app/website that was released today and every tech geek is blogging about it.  As I'm a music geek and ran into it I thought I would also write a little post about it.  So here's what I have to say:

Teachers: learn piano if you don't and be prepared to teach people piano.



                                                             The interface for touch piano

The premise of the app is very simple: Take a well known classical piano piece.  Every time you press your screen or press a key notes will play.  Repeat until the end.

I fiddled with this app for a while and I have to say it's intoxicating.  While I can play the piano, I would hardly say I'm remotely good at the instrument.  This app made me want to brush off my books and relearn how to play piano.  Honestly I might start practicing piano seriously again because this app is pretty inspiring.  Just hammering out the last movement of Beethoven's Appasionata, or the opening of Pathetique, without spending the time to actually learning the notes and the proper technique is still somehow incredibly fun to play.

While you can't control the dynamics (well) and articulation is still an issue, it is still a fun way to mess around with amazing classical works and feel a way of expressing yourself musically without spending the hundreds or thousands of hours necessary practice to master these pieces.  I definitely felt inspired to dust my music off and start practicing again and I believe this app is an amazing way to introduce people to what it feels like to be a classical musician.

While this doesn't remotely feel like playing on an actual piano, it is definitely worth letting students take a crack at this simply because when I was playing this I was playing it as I would a real piece.  While the export of the audio is obviously MIDI and doesn't effectively emulate the sound of the piano, I still felt moved trying to give a, albeit romantic, performance of Beethoven.

So stop listening to me and click on this link and visit the website!  Be warned: It works best on Chrome.  Firefox works, but it doesn't work on IE.